The State Senate ALMOST passed a budget last night. Republican State Senator Abel Maldonado voted “yes,” along with all the Democratic Party Senators. One more Republican vote would have put the budget over the top. However, that “one more vote” was lacking.
Does anybody really know WHY Republican Senators (Mr. Maldonado now excepted) are willing to shut down child care centers and otherwise bring state and local government to a halt? Along with a handful of other environmental advocates I was at the State Capitol last night, and here’s what we found out:
Senate Republicans have been holding up the budget because they want the Legislature to amend the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), to eliminate any consideration of global warming impacts during the normal environmental review process. No Democratic Senators have been willing to do that, and this has apparently been a real “deal breaker” for the Republican Senators. Amazing as it may seem, since CEQA has nothing to do with the budget, Republican members of the State Senate (Mr. Maldonado now excepted) are refusing to vote for the budget unless CEQA is gutted, with respect to global warming.
This demand is not only outrageous because it puts young kids and poor people in jeopardy; it’s outrageous on its own terms. CEQA simply requires that if a project would contribute to future global warming, the environmental review must analyze how those global warming impacts could be avoided or minimized. If there is a “feasible” way to minimize or avoid such impacts, then CEQA requires that the project be modified to do that. “Feasible” means “economically feasible,” so what CEQA requires is that we actually do whatever we feasibly and economically can to reduce global warming impacts.
Most of us think that’s good! Republican State Senators, however (Senator Maldonado now excepted), apparently think that making project applicants implement feasible mitigation measures is bad. In fact, they are willing to torpedo the entire state budget because the Democrats in the State Senate won’t eviscerate California’s most powerful environmental law, to give global warming polluters a free ride.
Our thanks to Senate Democrats and the President pro Tem of the Senate for not caving in to the illegitimate and disgraceful demand that the price of getting a budget is to violate the integrity of CEQA, and to shortchange efforts to stop global warming pollution.
Our thanks also to those of you who put in calls on this issue. It made a difference!
Gary Patton is the Executive Director of the Planning and Conservation League, a statewide, nonprofit lobbying organization. For more than thirty years, PCL has fought to develop a body of environmental laws in California that is the best in the United States. PCL staff review virtually every environmental bill that comes before the California Legislature each year. It has testified in support or opposition of thousands of bills to strengthen California’s environmental laws and fight off rollbacks of environmental protections.